Anchor/news director is no longer employed by WETM after video alleges inappropriate behavior

A local news anchor is no longer working at an Elmira TV station after an online group posted a video that allegedly shows him engaging in inappropriate behavior at a Southern Tier shopping center.

The group, known as “607 Predator Hunters,” posted a YouTube video of a confrontation with WETM-TV anchor and news director Zach Wheeler at the Town Square Plaza in Vestal.

The group claims Wheeler believed he would be meeting face-to-face with a 15-year-old boy he had contacted through an online dating site.

A spokesperson for 607 Predator Hunters said the group posted a decoy ad on a dating site and Wheeler responded to it. The group’s online description says it is dedicated to “exposing child predators.”

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In the video, Wheeler doesn’t deny that he was at the plaza to meet the boy, but offered differing explanations, including trying to warn the teen about talking to older men online.

The video also showed Wheeler asking, “Why do you guys do this to gay and lesbian people?” Wheeler in the video denies being a pedophile or a predator.

The video gained nationwide attention after 607 Predator Hunters posted it on YouTube and linked to it from its Facebook page.

The headline of the video declares “‘Zach’ Local News Anchor Drives 3 Hours to Meet 15YO Boy!!” A spokesperson for the group confirmed the confrontation took place in Vestal, about an hour’s drive from Elmira.

In response to the attention generated by the video, WETM posted a statement on its Facebook page Saturday, indicating management was aware of the situation and the employee — which it did not identify by name — would remain off the air until the situation was resolved.

WETM issued an updated statement Monday afternoon.

“WETM management investigated the questions raised by the video, and the employee is no longer employed by WETM,” the statement said.

Station General Manager Tina Castano did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

A number listed for Wheeler was inactive. He has an active Instagram account and a Twitter account that is restricted. Attempts to reach him through those channels were unsuccessful as of Tuesday

The spokesperson for 607 Predator Hunters said the group turned over the video and other information to New York State Police on Monday, although it did not specify where, other than in Chemung County.

An investigator at the state police barracks in Horseheads said he was not familiar with the situation.

State Trooper Aga Dembinska, public information officer for state police Troop C, which includes Broome County, said she had seen the video but was unaware of anything being turned over to state police.

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This article originally appeared on Elmira Star-Gazette: Elmira TV news anchor no longer employed after YouTube video published

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